Behavior-based performance optimization in military training environments
Authors: Audrey Zlatkin, Costas Koufogazos, Gwen Campbell
Abstract: The quality of instruction Warfighters receive can substantially influence mission readiness. As such, it is important that military instructors develop and maintain instructional competencies to adequately promote relevant knowledge and skills among trainees. However, unlike K-12 educators, active-duty military instructors are not often provided opportunities for formal instructional training; that is, training on how to teach (Malone, Vogel-Walcutt, Ross, & Phillips, 2014). While their content, domain knowledge, and leadership skills are strong, military instructors lack “expert instructor techniques” and skill in implementing useful strategies to convey their knowledge to trainees. They are typically not afforded time and resources to develop these skills prior to taking charge of training new members of the Armed Forces. There was a need to design training tools for accelerating mastery among military instructors via rapid acquisition of high-quality instructional skills to ensure effective learning and retention among trainees.To address this challenge, Design Interactive developed an adaptive training tool, the Interactive Military Instructor Training and Assessment Technology (IMITATE). There was a focus on incorporating research-based training interventions such as video self-modeling, prompting, performance reflection, practice and feedback to support accelerated mastery of observable skills. The goal of the IMITATE program was to optimize the learning experience for military instructors with a tool that they could utilize to sharpen and receive interactive feedback on the skills that are crucial to being a good instructor. The system implements customizable rating systems made up of key performance areas (KPAs), broken down into observable behaviors with detailed rating anchors. This creates a competency- based approach for instructors, who through IMITATE, can receive structured, personalized feedback to quickly bridge performance gaps. IMITATE utilizes a three-stage approach for training – Prepare, Practice, and Assess. The Prepare stage provides introductory video-based observation and training that identifies the KPAs and behaviors and illustrates expert performance in the form of lessons. In the Practice stage, instructors practice their skills while receiving standardized, behavior-based assessment through an intuitive rating tool that provides observers with guidance on how to rate, promoting consistency between observers. The final stage, Assess, is where results are captured and displayed for immediate, actionable, structured and personalized feedback. A video-based after-action review offers session playback paired with time-synced ratings to highlight effective or ineffective performance. Built-in analytics enable performance comparisons between individuals and groups over time. Usability for IMITATE is consistently being assessed and refined based on end-user feedback. This iterative, user-centered design process enables a learning tool that is easy to use and applicable across a variety of domains. Integrating these research-based training interventions with a user-centered design process enabled the Design Interactive team to build upon existing military training protocols to enhance instructor competence, reduce instructor development costs, and improve mission readiness. This method is currently informing additional R&D efforts across the Marine Corps and Air Force and has been tested across a wide range of use cases from military, medical, academic, and industrial settings.
Keywords: adaptive training, usability and user-experience, military training and assessment, performance optimization
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